Cinematic Releases: Hell Hath No Fury: The Beguiled (2017) - Reviewed

Sofia Coppola's version of The Beguiled (based on the novel of the same name by Thomas P. Cullinanin) opens in a quiet and unassuming way. An idyllic nature scene broken only by the footsteps of a young woman picking mushrooms. She then comes upon the battered body of Union soldier Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) and thus begins a sordid tale filled with wicked sexual tension, betrayal, and even a little bit of horror.

The Beguiled takes place during the Civil War at an all-girl boarding school in the deep south. The school is ruled by the stern and strong-willed headmistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) who is looking after six young women of various ages. The arrival of Corporal McBurney, who needs to stay at their school after being wounded, is the catalyst for all sorts of hidden desires. He is handsome and charming and goes out of his way to find out what each woman's hopes and dreams are. He focuses his efforts especially on the eldest girl Edwina (Kirsten Dunst). Though McBurney is quite charismatic on the surface, it is obvious that he has nefarious ulterior motives at play.

The way the women interact with each other is mesmerizing because they do everything under a veneer of politeness. The slightest glance can convey a multitude of emotions. Coppola is a master of creating atmosphere and depicting young budding sexuality--especially with women. Although McBurney is the focus of the house the actual story is focused on the women instead. We see their joys, their sorrows and eventually their fury.

For much of the film we are confined inside the claustrophobic house but every once in awhile we are treated to gorgeous outdoor shots showing the sultry and dreamy Mississippi countryside. Coppola has a way of imparting a misty, ethereal quality to the entire film which makes it almost seem like an alternate dimension. Almost the entire movie is devoid of any musical score but as it draws near the end music starts creeping into the background like a fog rolling in at dusk.

To "beguile" someone means to charm them with intentions to deceive. McBurney fancies that he has landed himself some kind of harem situation but he does not know the deep resilience that women possess. Like some men, he underestimates the fairer sex and because of this he has to accept his punishment. Vengeful bitches indeed, Mr. McBurney.

--Michelle Kisner